We're celebrating International Women's Day: Meet some of our female athletes

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 marks International Women’s Day and as a result, we’re taking a moment to celebrate some of our many female Paralympic athletes who have represented their country over the last number of years and are certainly women to watch in the coming months and years.

Here, we will give you a quick snapshot of our some of these talented athletes, with many more female athletes also training hard to succeed as well as numerous female support staff and coaches who also boast fantastic achievements.


Ellen Keane

Ellen was Ireland’s youngest athlete at Beijing 2008, when she represented her country at just 13 years of age. She also competed at London 2012, and has claimed a number of medals since then, to include a bronze in the 200m Individual Medley final (SM9) at the IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow last year.

Here's some other facts about her:

Are you working or studying? I'm a full time student, studying culinary entrepreneurship in Dublin Institute of Technology.

What is your biggest swimming accomplishment? Two bronze medals at the IPC world Swimming Championships 2013 and one bronze in 2015.


Noelle Lenihan

Noelle made her debut on the international stage at the IPC World Athletics Championships in Doha last year. She certainly made a mark, setting a new world medal and also scooping a silver medal.

Here's some fun facts about her:

What got you started in sport? My family are heavily involved in sport, so it was natural for me to follow in their footsteps.

Who is your inspiration?  Katie Taylor, because she is a young woman who has achieved far beyond the expectations of other people and this is something I really admire.

What is your biggest achievement of your sporting career to date? Winning a silver World medal at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha and making a new world record for my F38 class topped it off.

If you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and relive it – what would it be?

I would go back to when I stood on the podium after winning silver in Doha because it was an unbelievable feeling and an unforgettable moment in my career to date.

Favourite thing to do outside of sport: Reading or music.

Favourite quote: "Nothing to lose, Everything to gain".

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Don't give up on your goals and dreams.

What advice would you give to younger athletes? To be better, you need to do twice as much as the next person.

If you could visit one place in the world where would it be and why?  Japan, because I would like to experience their culture.

If you won the Lotto, what would be the first thing you’d do?  I would go on a mad shopping spree!

Who would you like to thank most for getting you to where you are today? My father who is also my coach. Without him, I wouldn’t have gotten this far.


Deirdre Mongan

Deirdre won a bronze medal in the Shot Put at the IPC World Championships in Doha last year, and juggles training for her sport with motherhood. Here's some fun facts about her:

Interesting facts: Deirdre studied in NUI Galway, and currently works as a Research Officer with the Health Research Board in Dublin. She is mother to daughter Amy who is 18 months old.

What got you started in sport? I started when I moved to Dublin in 2006, it started with a desire to get fit and find a new hobby outside of work. 

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Winning bronze in the World Championship in 2015.


Nicole Turner

One of the youngest panel members, Nicole has progressed onto the senior Paralympic swimming scene recently, and had much to celebrate in 2015 when she won a silver medal in the Youth Category and also competed in six events at the IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow where she set a new lifetime best in every single event. A first year secondary school student, here are some interesting facts about Nicole.

What got you started in sport? My brother fell in the canal when he was 3 and this made my mam and dad determined that we should all swim. I started learning to swim when I was 4 and loved it!

Who is your inspiration? Erin Popovich, USA, S6 Paralympic swimmer.

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Winning a silver medal at the British Para International Games. 

If you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and relive it – what would it be? The week I reached a final in every event I entered at my first Senior World Paralympic Championships.

Favourite quote: Dream it, believe it, achieve it!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Work hard, persevere and trust in your coaches and club to help you achieve your dream!

If you could visit one place in the world where would it be and why? Riviera Maya, Cancun Mexico, my parents say it is beautiful there!

If you won the Lotto, what would be the first thing you’d do? I'd treat my mam, dad and brothers first because they mean the world to me.


Orla Barry

Orla has represented Ireland at two Paralympic Games - Beijing 2008 and London 2012 -  and won a bronze medal at London. She went on to break the world record for F57 Discus in 2012 and also secured bronze in Doha in 2015 at the IPC Athletics World Championships. Here's more about her:

What got you started in sport? I went to a competition to try out throwing and loved it from day one. 

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? I have held the World Record for my class, along with the bronze at London, and medals at Worlds and Europeans. 

If you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and relive it – what would it be? I would relive the World Championships in 2013 as that was my best performance to date.

Favourite quote: You get out of it what you put into it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? The importance of being mentally prepared for a competition

What’s the best advice that you could pass on to younger athletes? Have patience: success won’t come overnight you have to work for it - and that no matter how many bad days you have, it’s worth it to experience the good days.


Heather Jameson

Currently in college, Heather competed for Ireland at London 2012 at the age of just 15 where she achieved a Personal Best in the long jump and the 100m. She claimed bronze in the Berlin Grand Prix last year in the long jump.

What got you started in sport? My family is very active so naturally sport was what I experienced from a young age, also at primary school we were encouraged to join as many activities as possible to get a taste of everything

Who is your inspiration? Jessica Ennis

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Competing in the London 2012 Paralympics at the age of 15

If you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and relive it – what would it be? The Italy Grand Prix 2012, when I jumped the Paralympic long jump standard for the first time

Favourite quote: “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Don’t let your competitors intimidate you, use them as inspiration.

What’s the best advice that you could pass on to younger athletes? Don’t get disheartened if you don’t see immediate results, perfection takes time and to do the simple things right, it will make the hard things easy.

If you could visit one place in the world where would it be and why? The Greek Islands, the colour of the water is magical, also the landscapes and old buildings fascinate me

If you won the Lotto, what would be the first thing you’d do? I'd buy a Volkswagen Golf.

Who would you like to thank most for getting you to where you are today? My parents and family, also all my coaches over the years, across all sports, they have all helped shape me into the athlete I am today.


Niamh McCarthy

The Discus thrower from Co. Cork first emerged onto the Paralympic athletic scene in 2013, and secured a bronze medal at her first major championships at Doha last year. Here's a little bit more about her:

What got you started in Paralympic sport? I was invited to the 2012 Talent search which went well - it all began there. 

Who is your inspiration? Anyone that I know/hear of who has issues and overcomes them.

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Bronze medal at the IPC Athletics World Championships.

Favourite thing to do outside of athletics:  Skydiving/wind tunnel flying.

Guiltiest indulgence: Vampire romance novels. Cat videos. These also happen to be my favourite things outside of sport.

Favourite quote: Never regret something that once made you smile.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Make time for yourself, you are number one. 

What’s the best advice that you could pass on to younger athletes? Understand the sacrifices and work that is involved. Make sure the "goal" is something that you want and make sure that YOU make that decision. Motivation and will to succeed is 50% of the work and no one can do that for you. Also, don't give yourself a label, you can do anything you set your mind to, the only thing stopping you is your opinion of yourself.

If you won the Lotto, what would be the first thing you’d do? I'd buy one of those really expensive bottles of champagne to see if it's worth the hype.


Ailbhe Kelly

Secondary school student, Ailbhe, trains at the National Aquatic Centre and made her debut on the international competition stage in 2014 at the European Championships in Eindhoven. She also set new lifetime bests at the World Championships in Glasgow last year.

What got you started in sport? My brothers.

Who is your inspiration? Ellen Keane.

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? World Championship finalist 2015 in the 100m backstroke.

If you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and relive it – what would it be? Swimming in Eindhoven at my first senior international competition (2014).

Favourite quote: “Níl ceart go leor maith go leor.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Not to think about competing with other people but instead to focus on being my best – not somebody else's. 

What’s the best advice that you could pass on to younger athletes? It’s important to believe in yourself and be confident in your abilities.

If you could visit one place in the world where would it be and why? Japan – the culture is very different to ours.

If you won the Lotto, what would be the first thing you’d do? Adopt an animal/ tell all my friends I’d won the lotto!


Rena McCarron Rooney

Currently based in Galway, Rena represented Ireland at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and has enjoyed considerable success since to include a silver medal in the Singles Event at the European para-table tennis championships last year in Denmark.

What got you started in sport? I have always been interested in sport. When I met my husband,  he was already a successful Paralympian and through him, I got interested in para sport.

Who is your inspiration?  I admire a lot of women in sport such as Katie Taylor, Jessica Ennis,  Sonia O’ Sullivan and Venus Williams.

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Winning a silver medal at European Para Table Tennis Championships in Singles Event in 2015 in Denmark.

If you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and relive it – what would it be? My winning point in my first round match at London Paralympics 2012.

On the other hand, if you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and change it, what would you be? I played a really important match at the World Championships in Beijing in 2014 and I lost in deuce in the 5th set on a technical error. I would like to replay that point!

Favourite quote: If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it.

What’s the best advice that you could pass on to younger athletes? Success doesn’t come overnight to most athletes, so persevere and also that para sport is a gift that opens up so many opportunities, so get involved and strive to reach your potential.

If you could visit one place in the world where would it be and why? I’ve been lucky to have travelled extensively through the years and have visited a lot of countries but I have not yet been to Australia or New Zealand. They are still on my “bucket list”.


Helen Kearney

A para-equestrian dressage rider, Helen began her sporting story in 2008, and won Ireland’s first European para-equestrian medal in 2011 when she secured bronze in the Grade 1A individual test. She represented Ireland at London 2012, winning a silver and bronze in her individual events, and also helped the Irish para-equestrian team to bronze.

What got you started in sport?  My mam always encouraged me to be outside and active.

Who is your inspiration? Lee Pearson, GB’s most successful Para Dressage rider. He is a truly gifted horseman who has helped to make Para Dressage what it is today.

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Winning 3 medals at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Favourite place to compete? Deauville in France because it’s a beautiful part of the world - with great food too! - but mostly because I’ve had a few great competitions there.

Guiltiest indulgence:  Salt and Vinegar crisps

Favourite quote: The harder I work, the luckier I get.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Keep going.

If you won the Lotto, what would be the first thing you’d do?  Build and indoor arena to make training much easier with the Irish weather.


Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal

Katie-George and Eve (pilot) are a hugely successful tandem cycling team. Katie-George was first introduced onto the cycling scene in August 2011 and has enjoyed much success since then, with the pair storming to silver in the Women’s B tandem Road Race in 2014 and are currently the 2015 National Tandem Champions.

Here's some interesting facts about Katie-George:

What got you started in sport? At school I got involved in sport and quickly realised my love and enjoyment of it, that it was something I was good at and could do well.

Who is your inspiration? No one in particular. Anyone who has not given up and faced a lot of struggles, adversity and still managed to succeed.

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Silver in the road race at the Road World Championships in USA in 2014, narrowly missing out on the Gold medal in the sprint finish. Bronze in the 3k pursuit at the Track World Championships in the Netherlands in March 2015. Both with Eve McCrystal as my pilot.

Favourite quote: Pain is only temporary but victory is forever.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Rest is as important as training.

What’s the best advice that you could pass on to younger athletes? Believe in yourself and do it for yourself.

 

And some fun facts about Eve:

What got you started in sport? I have always been involved in sport. Triathlon was my first love...I will return!

Who is your inspiration? My brother.  

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Best Irish Rider Ras Na mBan 2016 also completing an Ironman 8 months after having my second child...it was not easy!

If you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and relive it – what would it be? Pedal the bend coming into the home straight Road Worlds 2015 - we lost a bronze because of this mistake. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Believe in yourself the rest will follow.  


Rosemary Gaffney

Hailing from Tipperary, Rosemary has enjoyed considerable success in her career, and describes her biggest achievement as the moment she won at Bishop Buron in 2015 just before Europeans.

What got you started in sport? A fall which left me unable to compete as an able bodied rider.

What is your biggest accomplishment of your sporting career to date? Winning at Bishop Burton in 2015 just before the Europeans.

If you could revisit one moment in your career and go back and relive it – what would it be? Winning at Hartpury at my first International 3*.

Favourite thing to do outside of sport: Read and spend time with friends.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Pain is temporary it may last a minute, an hour, a day or a year but eventually it will subside – and something else will take its place. If you quit however, it lasts for ever.

What’s the best advice that you could pass on to younger athletes? The only place winning comes before work is in the dictionary. Also, your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.

You can read more about these athletes and indeed, all of our athletes here

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